Widespread FRA1-Dependent Control of Mesenchymal Transdifferentiation Programs in Colorectal Cancer Cells

Jeannine Diesch, Elaine Sanij, Omer Gilan, Christopher Love, Hoanh Tran, Nicholas I. Fleming, Jason Ellul, Marcia Amalia, Izhak Haviv, Richard B. Pearson, Eugene Tulchinsky, John M. Mariadason, Oliver M. Sieber, Ross D. Hannan, Amardeep S. Dhillon

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67 Scopus citations


Tumor invasion and metastasis involves complex remodeling of gene expression programs governing epithelial homeostasis. Mutational activation of the RAS-ERK is a frequent occurrence in many cancers and has been shown to drive overexpression of the AP-1 family transcription factor FRA1, a potent regulator of migration and invasion in a variety of tumor cell types. However, the nature of FRA1 transcriptional targets and the molecular pathways through which they promote tumor progression remain poorly understood. We found that FRA1 was strongly expressed in tumor cells at the invasive front of human colorectal cancers (CRCs), and that its depletion suppressed mesenchymal-like features in CRC cells in vitro. Genome-wide analysis of FRA1 chromatin occupancy and transcriptional regulation identified epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT)-related genes as a major class of direct FRA1 targets in CRC cells. Expression of the promesenchymal subset of these genes predicted adverse outcomes in CRC patients, and involved FRA-1-dependent regulation and cooperation with TGFβ signaling pathway. Our findings reveal an unexpectedly widespread and direct role for FRA1 in control of epithelial-mesenchymal plasticity in CRC cells, and suggest that FRA1 plays an important role in mediating cross talk between oncogenic RAS-ERK and TGFβ signaling networks during tumor progression.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere88950
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
StatePublished - 21 Mar 2014


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